Thursday, November 10, 2011

A "Kill Team" Conviction

Staff sergeant Calvin Gibbs was convicted on three counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison for a series of sport killings in Afghanistan between January and May 2010.  Gibbs was one of five members of the Fifth Stryker Brigade, Second Infantry Division, charged with murder for deliberately killing civilians.  Three have entered guilty pleas.  In all, twelve members of the brigade have been charged with crimes related to activities of the so-called "kill team."  Ten of those have pleaded guilty or been convicted to date.

According to an Army investigation into the killings that was leaked to the Washington Post last year, a member of Gibbs' unit claimed that he hoped to make a necklace from fingers that he cut from the hands of those he killed.  Gibbs also had a tattoo on his calf that he used to keep track of his kills.  Red skulls represented kills in Iraq while blue skulls indicated kills in Afghanistan.

There are many atrocities in war that go unpunished.  Indeed, war itself may be the greatest atrocity.  But what happened today in a U.S. court martial is a reminder that not everything is permissible in war.  And sometimes activities that cross the line--even in war--are actually punished.